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Understanding Website Accessibility
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Understanding Website Accessibility

I was delighted to have a conversation last week with Jill Willson from The Equality Practice.

Jill is as passionate about Inclusion as I am but the concept of website accessibility was something new to her.

I really appreciated the opportunity to explain this in a little more detail. I hope this is of interest to other people as well.

The photo of Boots in Chichester I used in the presentation was from the JP Media Website in the following article, which was published on 30th May 2019.

https://www.chichester.co.uk/business/concerns-raised-over-future-chichester-boots-69302

A full transcript of the video is below.

A transcript of the video is below:

My name is Jill Wilson from The Equality Practice.

My guest today is a guy I've recently just had the pleasure of speaking to. He was introduced to me by a lady called Liz Jury, the voice-over artist. She said "You have to speak to this gentleman". Having spoken with him recently, I can honestly say he has introduced me to greater knowledge surrounding accessibility and inclusion but in a different realm. I'll not steal his thunder and tell you any more. Clive Loseby, from Access by Design, welcome to Including Me.

Thank you so much Jill and it's lovely to be, here thank you for inviting me. Thank you for coming and thank you for giving your time.

Now Clive, inclusion is important to both of us but tell us why it's particularly important to you?

Okay, so inclusion to me, because we are a website design company, inclusion to me means a website being inclusive. In simple terms, it means a website being accessible. Accessibility with websites can be quite a complicated issue but I've got a photo which I can share with you which will help me explain it in a way that most people seem to be able to understand. So, if we just share this now. Okay this is a photo of Boots the Chemist in Chichester, which is near where I live. It's in an old building which they couldn't do much about in terms of doing any modifications however, as you can see, it is at least on the ground floor, there's no steps up to it. Now there are three sets of doors going into this place. The two doors on the right are glass doors and they're reasonably heavy to push and they're the ones that have always been there. On the left hand side is an automatic door that slides open as you move towards it.

Now if you are like the lady in the foreground, who's in a wheelchair and being pushed, which of those three doors would you naturally want to go towards? Well, the sliding doors. You go to the sliding doors, that's absolutely right. Okay, so if you were perhaps an older person, well not even an older person but somebody who uses a standing frame which maybe has those shopping bags on it and then move forward, which way would they go naturally? Sliding doors? Yeah okay so if you've got a young child in a pram and you're walking towards there where do you think you would naturally gravitate towards? Yes sliding doors. Okay so you've gone into Boots and you bought, you spent a whole load of money on nappies and you're coming out with your arms full literally both of them, so you don't have any arms free, which way would you go out? Of course, the sliding doors, yeah. Exactly, easy but you the other two doors are always there for anybody who wants them. That sums up accessible website design because it's not about saying to people "you must use this website in a certain way", it's about always giving people an alternative.

I've often stood outside here and just looked at the behavior of people going in and people going out and the amount of people who just naturally go towards the automatic door is amazing. People who are perfectly able-bodied, it's just convenient and actually people like things that are easy and things that are convenient, so by having this you are naturally making everybody feel more welcome. People with children in prams, walking frames, bags of shopping, whatever, they're all people with a some kind of limitation or something that makes it a little bit easier for them to naturally go to an automatic door.

I get that, I get the premise of that. How does this work with a website, because this is where you started to blow my mind when we chatted earlier on in the month.

Okay so there's a thing called, well, I call them building regs for websites and these were laid down originally in 1999, Now if you think what state the internet was like in 1999, it was somewhat basic to how it was now but back then, the WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were developed because they knew with this thing called the internet that was growing rapidly, one of the groups of people who would use it most are people who perhaps couldn't get out of their house so often, so they actually laid down these these rules and they said, "Look, if you want your website to work for as many people as possible, here are the things that you need to do" and a lot of the things are kind of obvious so, for example, if you've got an image of a car, somebody who's blind using a screen reader wouldn't know that it was an image of a car, however you can use this thing called the alt tag which most website content management systems will let you change. In fact even LinkedIn allows you to add an alt tag when you upload an image to a LinkedIn post and that alt tag is what's picked up by a screen reader so if that alt tag says this is a picture of a car that means that somebody who's blind knows that it's a picture of a car.

What often happens is that people just upload images, maybe even images they've taken with their mobile phone and those images will just have random letters and names assigned which doesn't mean anything so these guidelines were, I mean that that's a simple example there are obviously a lot more examples but the idea behind them are saying "Look, if you follow these rules, if you follow these guidelines, you'll make sure that your website is as welcoming as possible and that is the premise, that is the idea, so you're not telling somebody how they should design the site, it's about suggesting to people "Here are the things to take on board at the same time".

Is it a legal requirement Clive?

Okay so this is where it gets really interesting. If you receive public funding, then it is a legal requirement because the government have laid down guidelines. Now the government guidelines are fine, they only cover unfortunately about three percent of the things that ought to be covered but at least it is the start and if you have received public funding, there's two things you need to have. You need to have an audit of your website, which you could either get somebody to do for you or you could do yourself, and then after that audit you create what is called an Accessibility Statement. Accessibility Statements tell people who come to your website, what your website can and can't do.

To give you a real world example, if you go into a cafe and there is seating upstairs and there is not a lift and you're in a wheelchair, you won't be able to use the upstairs seating but if, as you go in, there's a sign by the door saying "please be aware, the seating upstairs, there is not a lift but we've got some reserved seating downstairs for customers in wheelchairs, and perhaps there's a bit more space around them and then you have the staff trained, so that if somebody in a wheelchair, they're buying stuff, they've got hot drinks on the tray and they automatically, instinctively, offer to carry over before them to the table. So, straightaway, just by doing those two simple things, you're telling that person who's using a wheelchair, "We want to welcome you, we want you to be included, we want to make life easy for you". So that is a real world example of what an Accessibility Statement is, It's not saying "We've got a perfect website", it's saying "Here is our website, we know there are things about it that aren't great, or there are issues with it and here's what they are but, by the way, if there's anything you can't find give us a call, send us an email.

Yeah so it's very much about giving people an alternative, always another way of finding out because people go to a website to find information or to buy something, to order something that's what websites are there for, so you, by having an Accessibility Statement, you're including a group of people who've got money to spend with you, who want to find that information from you and perhaps they're not finding it so easy to do so. Just to jump back to the legal requirements, as far as the government guidelines are concerned, they are just for websites that are publicly funded. However every website that members of the public can access, falls under the Equality Act and that's what people need to be aware of simply because the government guidelines talk about this tiny bit that they say you must at least fulfill, there's a lot more things than that that. Actually you could end up in trouble with people and basically we don't want that. We want people to feel that their Accessibility Statement is protecting them, it's informing people to the site and everybody wins because we don't live in a perfect world but at least if we can live in an informed world.

Honestly there's one thing I want to say that everybody can take on board right now today. I call it the c-word and the c-word is "click here" because that is the most commonly used phrase for a link. Now if you're blind and using a screen reader: "click here". Click where? Yeah it's by changing the language to "Follow this Link", you are telling people straight away that you want to be inclusive. So that is what you're about Jill, in in the wider area of inclusivity. It's about making people feel welcome, accepting we live in an imperfect world.

The Equality Practice is not a specialist in disability access, it's not a specialist in LGBT issues. What The Equality Practice is about is inclusion and so when I spoke to you and to hear that you are talking about inclusion in the website, I'd never I'd not even thought about it, so I was blown away by the idea you know but it's all in the language, inclusive language being mindful, it's all the stuff that we talk about but in a different realm

That's right and it is actually, that's why I always start with that photo of Boots because it's a real world example about how it works in practice. You don't need to understand the technicalities of it. In the same way you don't need to understand the technicalities of building regs, that's why you have a builder, that's why you have a surveyor, that's why you have an architect, and it if you see it in those terms then, even if your website has issues with it, that's fine, because you explain to people that you do have issues with it and here's what they can do as an alternative.

That's all it's about. Sorry Clive, if people want to know more about this, where can they go? I mean, do they come to you, can they look it up before they come to you?

Okay, well there's a couple of things. Firstly I run a monthly workshop on LinkedIn, the next one is on July the 7th and they're more than welcome to register and come along to that. Our brand new website which is dedicated just to this area, which is called websiteaccessibilityaudit.co.uk and that goes live I think on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. There's a lot of information on there and there's always the government website, although the government website does only cover a little bit of it, so that would be the way to go.

I offer anybody a free 15-minute chat which they can book in through going to the website websiteaccessibilityaudit.co.uk and I'll be very happy to just give them 15 minutes of my time maybe give them some pointers and if they would like to have an audit then we can talk about what kind of level of audit they might need and what the costs might be.

On that note, thank you for being part of Including Me.

Thank you so much Jill, I really appreciate you having me today, take care. Thank you